In a recent sermon our pastor made a point about life having meaning by referencing 2005’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, based on the novel of the same name by Douglas Adams. He and I have discussed this movie both prior to and since his recent sermon reference, and, to put it bluntly, we disagree about it. Where he sees meaningless nonsense, I see deep spiritual truth. So I thought I’d put forth my opinion on the story for those of you who haven’t seen the movie or read the book and let you decide.
Chronologically, the story of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (hereafter, the Guide) begins millions of years ago with a super-advanced race of beings in search of “the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything”. Understand this – in short, they are searching for ultimate, universal truth. The leaders of this advanced race build the universe’s greatest computer (called Deep Thought) to compute this ultimate answer. After something like a million years of computation, this whole civilization gathers to hear the ultimate answer. Deep Thought announces that it has arrived at the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything – 42.
Understandably, the super-advanced race is dumbfounded by the nonsensical answer they have just received. When they protest this fact to Deep Thought, the computer informs them that they received a meaningless answer because they asked a meaningless question. So the leaders of the super race set out to build an even greater computer to compute the ultimate question, so that they can then ask the ultimate question to Deep Thought and receive the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything. The second computer? The second computer is Earth and humanity.
Fast forward several million years to Arthur Dent, an average British man who feels defeated by life. He has met and lost an amazing girl, Tricia McMillian, is about to lose his house to the construction of a highway bypass, and (unbeknownst to him and everyone else on earth) is about to lose his planet to the construction of, of all things, an interstellar highway bypass. His best friend, Ford Prefect, is actually an alien on earth to do research for a book, titled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ford saves Arthur and they embark on a whirlwind adventure, eventually meeting up with Tricia again (who goes by the more ‘spacey’ name Trillian now) and galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox. Their journey eventually lands them on the super race’s “backup earth” where they are imprisoned by the super race’s leaders (in the form of mice, no less), who demand that Arthur give them the ultimate question (which they believe is in his brain somewhere) or they will take it from his brain by force. Here’s where the story becomes incredibly meaningful, at least to me…
Having lost nearly everything he cares about, and facing the imminent deaths of himself and his friends, the only question that Arthur can bring himself to ask is, “Is she (Trillian) the one?”
Let me put it another way. In the universe of the Guide, earth and human beings were created to compute the most important question in all the universe, and when it all came down, that question was, essentially, “Am I loved?”
The most important question in the universe was one of love.
Now, pull that thought out of the atheist universe Douglas Adams wrote it in… We each ask the question, “Am I loved?” And in our universe, the real one, God answers, “Yes, I love you very much. In fact, I love you so much that I gave up a piece of myself, my only son, to die in your place so that we can be together for all eternity.”
And that, friends, completely transforms a story filled with typical British nonsense humor (which I love, by the way), and written by an avowed atheist, into something that communicates an amazingly deep and meaningful and comforting spiritual truth about God. That’s the power of God, that he can take a book or a song or a movie meant simply to entertain, or even meant to teach something contrary to God’s truth, and use it for his own glory. (This, by the way, explains how a man who was an outspoken atheist during his life could write a comedy novel in which a super-advanced race of beings is seeking ultimate truth, and that ultimate truth turns out to be love.)
So, the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything is – love. Jesus said that the most important things we can do with our lives are to love God and love people. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that, of the things which are eternal and lasting, love is the greatest of them. The Apostle Peter wrote to the early Church that, in doing life together, the most important thing they should remember is to love each other deeply. And the Apostle John even equates love and salvation, saying that anyone who doesn’t live righteously and love others does not belong to God.
Enjoy knowing the meaning of life!